The Men who Led the Lakers
Jack McKinney (1979-80)
We continue our ongoing series on the head coaches that have led the Lakers throughout the team's tenure in Los Angeles with a look at the very brief stint of Jack McKinney, the first hire of Dr. Jerry Buss:
JACK MCKINNEY (1979-80)
After Jerry West stepped down as Lakers coach following the 1979 season, new owner Dr. Jerry Buss began his tenure by hiring Jack McKinney as the new man in charge.
It was perhaps the most coveted job in basketball at that point, with all that Los Angeles had to offer coupled by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the centerpiece and No. 1 overally pick Magic Johnson. McKinney had been coaching for 22 years at the high school, college and NBA levels (as an assistant), but as a 45-year-old, this was his big chance.
After a successful preseason and 10-4 start to the regular season, however, McKinney had a terrible fall off his son's bicycle while attempting to meet his assistant coach, Paul Westhead, to play tennis in Palos Verdes, California. He suffered severe injuries to his head, his face and his elbow, and though he was eventually able to return home, Westhead had taken over coaching duties.
The Lakers went on to win 60 games to just 22 losses, then defeat Phoenix, Seattle and finally Philadelphia in the NBA Finals to become the second championship team in Los Angeles Lakers history.
Westhead remained as head coach, while McKinney went on to become the NBA's Coach of the Year in Indiana in the following season, leading the Pacers to the playoffs for the first time since 1976, when they came to the NBA from the ABA.
LAKERS COACHING RECORD:
Regular Season: 10-4 (.714)
Total: 10-4 (.714)